Whilst I am in the zone with writing some blog posts I thought it would be nice to write about my first experience climbing an E1.
For many of us breaking into the extreme grades is or was a massive step. At the time I had probably been leading for just over a year. Looking back now, knowing what I know now I would say I was barely ready for the climb.
The day was like any other; Ian Westerby, Steve Roahmang and I were enjoying a nice warm day at Wilton. We had started off up at Wilton 3, warming up on the enjoyable Parallel cracks, Severe 4a. We had then made our way down to Wilton 1. Steve had led one of his first routes called 999, HS 4c. He led the route with no problems, the groove was surprisingly clean and the gear was all good. He laced up the route and we followed retrieving the gear. The day was turning out well and I was feeling good.
We had been hanging out near the bottom of Cameo having some food and thinking about what to do next. Steve had some nice reggae playing on his phone and my thoughts were turning to harder climbs. I had already looked at this route a few times and from below it didn’t look too bad. There seemed to be some decent gear, as far as I could tell and the holds looked positive. I had been mulling it over in my mind all day, but I had kept my thoughts to myself not wanting to get pushed into it by the boys.
A couple of old timers cruised past us and noticed me trying to work up the confidence to get on it. They asked me if I was going on it and I muttered that I might get on it! They both said to me get on it, that the gear was decent as long as I have some small wires but it needed a steady head!
At this point in my climbing career I had never taken a leader fall so had never tested out my gear! Come to think of it I probably didn’t really have a clue what I was doing. Either way; today was the day and it was time to start pushing the boundaries.
I remember feeling nervous as I started to make the first few moves, looking around for gear placements. As I moved up the gear started to get sparser and the climbing more difficult. I remember perching on this ledge shaking out for what seemed like ages trying to build up the confidence to really commit and get into the upper cracks of the climb. In the whole route I think I placed 4 or 5 runners, not a great deal considering the length of the route. Looking back now I know there were a few more runners that I could have placed. It was my fitness which failed me and meant that it was either run it out or bail! Fortunately my survival instinct and adrenaline helped me to power through the crux climbing more out of desperation than anything else. As I climbed out of the crux section and moved on to easier ground I was elated. I reached up to the ledge that is the top of Wilton’s prow and hauled myself up. I flopped onto the ledge with all the grace of a beached whale. It might not have been a pretty ascent but it was climbing, and it was my first E1! It was a milestone in my climbing career, and certainly a step in the right direction.
Nearly 2 years on and I’m still not comfortable climbing E1’s. Maybe this is testament to my lack of training and general sloppy approach to improving my footwork. I have however made a lot of progress. I have become more comfortable with leading, more confident placing and trusting gear and more able to feel the line of the climb! I hope to be breaking into the e2’s this season so hopefully I will be blogging about my successes or failures soon.